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Ship in Bottle Replaces Living Sculptures in London

Artist Yinka Shonibare poses next to a model of his sculpture
Artist Yinka Shonibare poses next to a model of his sculpture "Nelson's Ship in a Bottle" on show in London's Trafalgar Square, as part of the Fourth Plinth commission. Source: Bolton & Quinn via Bloomberg

May 24 (Bloomberg) -- A large ship in a bottle went on display in London’s Trafalgar Square today, occupying a sculpture platform that had earlier held a succession of men and women participating in an artwork.

The ship -- a replica of Admiral Nelson’s vessel in the victorious Battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon -- has 37 large sails made of patterned African-style textiles. It is fitted in a bottle, and the work of artist Yinka Shonibare, who is of Nigerian descent, and was shortlisted in 2004 for the Turner Prize -- the U.K.’s top contemporary-art award.

“We’re here to celebrate Nelson’s legacy. We have a diverse and very creative and economically diverse city,” said Shonibare, his hair in dreadlocks, as he addressed the small crowd gathered on a sunny morning. “This city is so creative because it’s a global city. So this is really what I’m trying to capture.”

Mayor Boris Johnson stood at the foot of the plinth and discussed the legacy of Nelson before having the white sheet over the sculpture pulled off.

“How did Nelson do it?” said the Mayor, dressed in a gray suit. “He had a lot of bottle. It has taken an artist of Yinka’s imagination to show how much bottle he had.”

“London is the place that best understands how to combine the old and the new.”

Gormley’s Volunteers

Each year, the Fourth Plinth, a vacant sculpture platform in Trafalgar Square, is filled by the winning work of an art contest organized by the Mayor of London. The previous winner, sculptor Antony Gormley, had 2,400 volunteers put themselves on it for 100 days between July and October 2009. His project was named “One & Other.”

In between the Gormley and Shonibare works, a statue of Sir Keith Park -- a Battle of Britain commander during World War II -- stood on the plinth from November to early May.

To contact the writer on the story: Farah Nayeri at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at

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